Kayaking Woahink Lake

Kayaking Woahink Lake
Kayaking Woahink Lake

Friday, September 26, 2014

Playing in Puget

Current Location: Whidbey Island NAS Cliffside RV Park 55 degrees F and dark skies

to Fort Lewis (40 of 97)Fort Lewis Travel Camp site 107

When planning our Puget Sound trip, I discovered again the fabulous retired military benefit of camping at Military Family Camps that are on many bases throughout the country. Finding good camping in this highly populated part of the west isn’t easy.  Boondocking sites are few and far between, with no public lands in the vicinity, and state parks are expensive.  I was delighted to locate two FamCamps in the vicinity of our planned travels.

Just south of Tacoma, at Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord in what is called North Lewis, is a lovely forested spacious camp along American Lake.  Within noise distance of I-5, the thick forest muffles the sound of the interstate and I only heard traffic in the dark at 5am as the morning commute commenced.

to Fort Lewis (49 of 97)We had reservations, and were efficiently sent to site 106, a back-in spot surrounded by trees.  Cable is provided and until we turned on the TV we didn’t know that a digital television was required.  Ah well then, let’s set up the satellite.  Of course, we were surrounded by trees, but the empty site across the way, a pull through site, had full view of the southern sky.

to Fort Lewis (50 of 97)Without any difficulty, I went back to the office, requested the change, and in minutes we were settled into the new site with the satellite all hooked up.  Until the rain started and the signal scrambled.  Often camping without benefit of hookups, much less television, it was no big deal, but it is nice to keep abreast of world events now and then.

to Fort Lewis (52 of 97)My Verizon MiFi worked great, which was also a good thing since I saw nary a sign of the base wifi that was supposed to be available in this campground.  Mo was running low on prednisone for Abby and we needed to find a vet who would refill her prescription. 

to Fort Lewis (47 of 97)We found a vet at a nearby PetSmart who agreed to see Abby, and decided that we could continue north to visit Gig Harbor for the rest of the afternoon.  Gig Harbor is a beautiful small town with a famous walking waterfront, lots of good restaurants, and art galleries.  A trendy, touristy, fun place.  I have read about it often, and always wanted to visit.

As we crossed the Tacoma Narrows bridge on Highway 16 we were warned that traffic backup in Gig Harbor was more than 4 miles out.  Having no clue as to the cause, we simply assumed that it was standard traffic stuff for an area known for congested traffic.  We made it to town eventually and parked a few blocks up from the waterfront and the Tides Tavern, our destination restaurant.

to Fort Lewis (22 of 27)Tides was delightful, and I did have to do a “food porn” shot of my incredible salmon sliders.  We were just in time for happy hour, and in addition to a great beer selection, the happy hour menu was perfect for our late afternoon lunch/early supper.  Mo had a single piece of fish and chips, but my sliders were on fresh baked slider buns, slathered with chipotle aioli on one side and basil pesto on the other.  Yum.  Oh, and don’t forget the fried pickles as well.  First time I had them was in Seaside Florida, and these weren’t as good, but still yummy.

to Fort Lewis (23 of 27)Our waiter was perfect, just chatty enough and the service was excellent. Our waiter showed us where Mt Rainier was located in the clouds.  The tavern is famous for its view of the mountain. He told us where we might walk to see the town, but as we watched the rain pour down we decided that a drive through might be a better choice.  Gig Harbor is great, but not so much in a heavy pouring rain. to Fort Lewis (24 of 27)

That is when it got interesting.  The traffic was bumper to bumper, completely stopped no matter which way we turned.  It was impossible to get over to the freeway, so we drove north a bit, while I navigated with the phone to try to find a way around to get back south.  We turned off into no man’s land, only to find more bumper to bumper traffic in the middle of nowhere.

to Fort Lewis (27 of 27)It seems there had been a huge wreck on the freeway, with both directions closed for many miles.  With some creative navigating, I got us to the exit just before the bridge and we finally got out of the stop and go traffic.  It was an interesting experience…many hours of complicated driving and navigating for an hour or so of relaxing at a nice tavern on the water.

The next morning was our “Seattle Day” and after perusing several options, we decided to attempt a visit to the Chihuly Glass and Gardens show at the Seattle Center.  Neither of us wanted to do the same things we had done in past Seattle visits, aka Pioneer Square, Downtown, Pikes Market, all that “stuff”.  Also on our list was a visit to the Fremont District and the Ballard District, with perhaps a side trip to the Washington Park Arboretum.

It didn’t sound like a big deal or too much of an agenda until we actually got on the Interstate north into downtown Seattle. Bumper to Bumper.  Dead stop.  All roads on the Google Map traffic completely red.  Signs saying the interstate is gridlocked.  So.  Getting off the interstate, we drove downtown on the 99, enjoying the high level view of the city from the Viaduct…the one that needs some serious earthquake protection work, but that is another story.  The Seattle skyline is always magical no matter the vantage point.to Fort Lewis (54 of 97)

As we drove north, thinking we could bypass Seattle Center for the time being, we somehow ended up on 99, considerably west of our Ballard destination, but right in the middle of the Fremont district.  I was trying to navigate with the phone, trying to figure out where to go, when we somehow turned into a tiny side road that led us directly to the famous Troll under the Bridge.  I had read about the troll in years past, but it wasn’t even on our radar for this day of exploration. 

to Fort Lewis (1 of 97)The story of the troll is here, and definitely worth checking out. For us, it was a happy accident and we continued driving through the Fremont feeling as though we had been lucky.  We were in the baby car/Tracker, and even so the streets in the Fremont area are incredibly narrow and tight.to Fort Lewis (4 of 97)

Continuing through the district, we found the corner with the famous statue of Lenin that to this day is controversial.  There is another story behind this statue as well that is interesting.  The alternative culture of the Fremont is evident everywhere, with cannabis shops, art studios, artistic grafitti, and interesting people walking around.

to Fort Lewis (6 of 97)Without a good city map (a paper map!) I had to rely on the phone to try to navigate and without actual addresses it was a bit of a stretch to find “the Ballard District”.  We knew it was somewhere west, so kept driving narrow streets and tight traffic until we came to the Scandinavian Museum.  The Ballard District was originally very Scandinavian, but has since become more upscale urban and I didn’t see a lot of Scandinavian influence.  It was a bit confusing, but we drove most of Market Street.

Once again, this is the kind of neighborhood that requires more time to truly enjoy.  In the rain and with limited time, neither of us were really into the shopping eating and walking kind of thing that should be savored slowly.  Both the Fremont and the Ballard districts would lend themselves well to a B and B stay for a few days with ample time to sample the shops and brews and food.  Still, we at least got a taste, if a tiny one.

The Ballard Locks are in this area as well, and would be another fun place to visit with more time and less rain.

We could see the Space Needle to the south, and managed to navigate to the area, but then finding parking was daunting.  There are several public parking lots and one even had a weekday special for ten bucks.  I knew going in that parking would be difficult and expensive, but somehow when we actually got there neither of us was in the mood to pay a bunch for parking and a bunch more for the exhibition and we just decided to skip it.  I think both of us were getting pretty tired of traffic and crazy circuitous routes by that time.

to Fort Lewis (9 of 97)Thinking perhaps a walk in the Arboretum would be more to our liking, I attempted once again to navigate our way out of downtown Seattle toward the Interstate 5 and Washington Park.  The interstate north wasn’t too bad until we somehow managed to get into the Express lane and couldn’t get off until we crossed a bridge and then had to find our way back south over another bridge. 

to Fort Lewis (30 of 97)When we finally arrived at the spacious green expanse of the Arboretum, we were definitely ready for the calming effect of a walk among the trees. 

I used to love the energy of Seattle, it is a great city.  It is a city that should be seen without a car, arriving on a cruise ship, staying in a downtown hotel, making use of public transportation and walking a lot.  It isn’t a place to go to in a day with a car.  Ever again.  Not for me.  I was exhausted from continually trying to navigate, reroute, navigate again and keep up with the shifts. 

to Fort Lewis (13 of 97)The Arboretum is a treasure, a respite in the midst of a crazy day and we loved every minute we were there.  Again, it is a place that requires much more than just dropping in for a walk.  One could walk here for days and not see all the wonders, especially the 500 varieties of Japanese maples. 

to Fort Lewis (17 of 97)Our respite didn’t last long because we knew that in order to avoid complete gridlock we needed to leave Seattle no later than 2:30.  Daughter Deanna later told me we should have left by 2 at the latest.  I think that would mean we should leave before we get there to avoid traffic.  Deciding to skip I-5 altogether, which was already gridlocked, we drove across the 520 toll bridge (where the fees are only the pay by mail version if you don’t have a pass) to Bellevue and onto the 405 south toward Renton.  Again, bumper to bumper, stop and go…and this was 2:30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday!  By the time we hit Tacoma, it was 3:30 and once again it was stop and go bumper to bumper.

to Fort Lewis (18 of 97)Ignore the google time thing.  WRONG!

seattle day mapWe were both starving and I seriously wanted a beer! I searched for and found a brewery not too far off the interstate north of our home destination, and we managed to slip into the Tacoma Mall.  Turns out the brewery was right in the middle of the huge mall and the huge parking lot was very full.  Ack!  Instead, we opted for sliding into the Red Robin parking lot nearby.  With a draft Octoberfest and some kind of southern whiskey hamburger, I finally began to relax, preparing for the next jaunt south on I-5 to our campsite.

Excited about finally getting back home, I prepared for our base gate entrance by getting out our ID.  Fort Lewis is a 100% ID check base.  UhOh.  Mo’s wallet was nowhere to be found.  Seems as though we spent the entire day with her driving and her wallet back on base in the MoHo.  With no clue how we were going to get back on base, we looked at each other and just kept driving.

At the gate, I had said specifically that I would be sure to keep my mouth shut and let Mo do the talking.  Of course, I am nothing if not mouthy at the wrong times, and in spite of my desire to keep my mouth shut, I started blabbering at the guard.  Sheesh.  In spite of my mouth, when Mo fully explained the problem, he let us in the gate, saying, “Just go ahead”.  whew! 

Back to the rig, wallet in hand, we got back in the car to go across to the other side of the base for provisions from the commissary.  Whew again.  Just writing about this day has exhausted me again, so I am not going to continue writing about our trip north to the Port Townsend ferry the next morning, reservations in hand.  Another crazy thing….but that is next.


Meandering Quickly to Puget Sound

Current Location: Whidbey Island NAS Cliffside RV Park 55 degrees F and raining

to Fort Lewis (10 of 27)The MoHo parked alone in the center of Shady Firs RV Park Randle WA

We had a good reason for taking a short trip to Seattle.  Thinking that a single day in the busy part of Puget Sound would be plenty to do our business, it seemed that we should make the trip count with an additional few days in the San Juan Islands.  I am fully aware that a short week isn’t nearly enough to really experience this magical place, but it is better than nothing.  We figured it would give us a chance to dip our paddles and check out the area for possible future trips.

map to fort lewisThen the business part of the Seattle day shifted and we actually didn’t really need to go to Seattle at all.  By then, however, reservations were made, and a day in Seattle is always fun, right?  Hmmmm.

When I say meandering quickly, I know that is an oxymoron.  The meander part has to do with the route we chose, avoiding any freeways and enjoying some side roads we haven’t traveled previously. The quickly part has to do with traveling almost 400 miles on our first day.

Mo asked once as the day lengthened why we had planned it this way.  I actually had forgotten, but then remembered, oh yes, it had to do with getting to Seattle for the business meeting and then still having time to play. 

The meandering route took us north on 97, incredibly familiar, but north of Madras we turned west to follow Highway 197 through Maupin toward The Dalles.  In all our years of traveling around Oregon, neither of us could remember taking this route.  Even with smoky skies the views of the canyon of the Deschutes River with Mt Hood in the distance were breathtaking.  Maupin (pronounced MOPin) seemed to be a cute little place, but we didn’t stop.  Remember, we were meandering quickly. So quickly that I didn’t even manage any photos through the windshield. 

At The Dalles, intersecting with Interstate 84, we decided to cross the river to the Washington side to Highway 14.  As we approached Hood River on the other side of the Columbia, the winds picked up as usual and the famous wind surfers looked like so many wild dragonflies darting across the choppy water.  Always fun to watch, I can’t really imagine how they stay upright at.  As we watched, several didn’t stay upright in the strong winds.

to Fort Lewis (21 of 27)Crossing at The Dalles turned out to be a great choice, because the bridge north across the river from Hood River is a toll bridge.  Nice.  We have traveled I-84 many times so it was a completely different view of the Columbia Gorge than we were used to seeing.  At the tiny town of Carson we turned north toward Mt St Helens and the rest of the trip to our camp spot in Randle was narrow and winding. 

After spending a large part of late summer in drought and smoke from forest fires, it was a treat to drive through rain and moist forests.  The views were less than spectacular, however, because this part of the Cascades is thick with trees, lots of them, and most of the views are completely obscured by timber.

to Fort Lewis (15 of 27)Along the southern part of the route especially, we were treated to the mosaic of timber grown and harvested as a crop.  It isn’t a forest, not really, it is a timber farm, and I love that these timber farms exist.  The private companies manage them much better than they did during the rape and run heydays of the 60’s, and as far as I am concerned it is wonderful to have highly managed productive timber lands that don’t tap into our wild old growth forests.  We drove through huge even aged stands of Douglas-fir, and many patches of clear cuts that had regenerated naturally into thick young stands.

to Fort Lewis (3 of 27)As we approached the St Helens Monument on the east side, we found a small roadside rest but only a couple of places where the Mountain was actually visible.  We visited the mountain back in 2004 while it was in an eruptive stage.  From the viewpoint I compared some of our previous photos and was amazed at how much the forest has regenerated on the blast devastated slopes in the last ten years.to Fort Lewis (5 of 27)

We arrived at the Shady Firs RV Park in Randle just after five.  A 400 mile day is an accomplishment on freeways but even more so on the winding side roads.  Daughter Deanna passed on a Rand McNally trucker’s GPS to us (she has three types and didn’t need this one) and I spent the day trying to figure it out and by the time we stopped I was worn out and hadn’t driven a mile! 

to Fort Lewis (13 of 27)I learned to pay attention to Deanna’s advice:  use the GPS, the Atlas, Google Maps, and some common sense.  I discovered that the Rand McNally worked great if I knew exactly where I wanted to go and how to get there and programmed it accordingly.  I did have to change the settings from “truck” to “car” because it kept trying to route me around things and send me a few hundred miles out of the way.  So glad I am not a truck and our full 46 feet of rig and towed length isn’t hard to manage.

Shady Firs was exactly what it claimed to be; a quiet park under shady firs with hookups for fifteen bucks cash Passport America.  I didn’t care at all about the rest rooms or the amenities because we only planned to stop for a night.  The sites are on grass, the hookups were fine and the dump was free.  There were just two sites with sewer, right next to the older trailer that housed a young caretaker.  We opted instead for a site out in the middle of the park, without a single camper joining us that night.

to Fort Lewis (11 of 27)It rained all night, a steady patter on the roof that was soft and soothing.  The morning dawned with beautiful sunshine streaming through the clouds but within a short time the rain took over once again.

Our second destination was a mere 77 miles away.  Mo asked again why it worked out this way and I could only reply that it had to do with finding a Passport America park on our route?  Who knows.  By noon we were settled into our new site.to Fort Lewis (41 of 97)

Next up:  Fort Lewis Military Family Camp and the joys of driving Puget Sound


Sunday, September 21, 2014


Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon Mostly Sunny and 77 degrees F

blooming in September 2014 (8 of 21) I have procrastinated writing a blog all day.  The month has been full, with both difficult and delightful moments.  I want to talk about the fun, but I do need to get the hard stuff out of the way. Often I think that people who share their feelings about life and the good and the bad things that go on are the best bloggers, the ones I like to read the most.  But it can be a fine line.  I read Mark’s moody musings with recognition, with “aha’ moments, and Al’s sometimes down days along with the good ones are part of what makes his blog good to read, real. I so appreciate the ups and downs of Sherry and David’s journey, and her willingness to share with us.

blooming in September 2014 (5 of 21) There are others who are more reticent, but magnificent photography and wonderful words describing exotic travels are a delight.  Now and then my favorite blogger and friend will let some musings slip into her detailed travelogues, and I always enjoy those moments.  As I said, a fine line.  I have stumbled onto blogs that are terribly tiresome, not because the blogger talked about how they felt about something, but maybe because they went on and on in a way that was …well…whiny and boring.  Needless to say, I don’t read those blogs any more.

blooming in September 2014 (15 of 21) I do talk about feelings in my blog, maybe more than some, not as much as others.  The surprise for me was my need to shut up and shut down when I had to deal with letting my cat Jeremy go.  It was and is hard to talk about it somehow.  Every animal owner knows the feeling of saying goodbye.  It happens to all of us eventually.  Even though I found I didn’t want to talk about it, I did discover that I needed to say it had happened, and the flood of condolences and support that came in was a good thing for me.  Thank you to everyone who made comments, and especially to MZB, a fellow blogger/friend who recently lost a loved pet as well, and sent long letters to assist me through the process.

Brookings_004 I miss Jeremy, of course.  Somehow I miss him even more in the MoHo.  He loved to travel because he knew we were all right there close together, he didn’t have to go crying around the house trying to find us.  In his old age, he hated being alone. He was either on my lap, on Mo’s shoulder, or riding shotgun on the dash whenever we were on a trip.  Still, nearly two decades with a cat is a blessing, especially a cat like Jeremy, so I won’t complain any more. 

Brookings_033 In case you are wondering, Abby is OK.  Not exactly fine, but OK.  She is still happy and eating and drinking and sticking to Mo like glue as usual.  We still have some time with her it seems.

Just a day after Jeremy went to cat heaven, my grandson Xavier was in another play, “The Skin of our Teeth”, at the Linkville Playhouse in Klamath Falls.  Daughter Deborah came over from Grants Pass to spend the weekend and go to the play with us.  It was a fine evening, and nearly 11pm when I pulled into the driveway back home.  I saw some movement on our porch, with dark hulking figures by the door, and started to panic, when a closer look suddenly revealed that the big hulking man on the porch was my grandson Steven!

Mt Scott family hike (3 of 91)-SMILE (1)From left: Deborah, Sue, Deanna, Mo, Steven, Jeremy, Axel, Melody

Daughter Deanna had picked him up in Moses Lake where he now lives and brought him to Rocky Point as a birthday surprise for me.  It was a great surprise, in addition to having Deanna here for a few days, I finally got to spend some time with Steven.  We have great shared memories of the years when I took him on work camping trips into the wilderness of Idaho when he was a teenager. This was the first time I have seen him since 2007 and since he returned from his second tour in Iraq. Even nicer, Steven was born on my birthday, so it was his birthday too!

Mt Scott family hike (18 of 91) What a great weekend we had!  I had previously requested a family hike for Sunday the 14th, choosing the Mt Scott trail in Crater Lake as a good place for a family trek.  I knew that Melody and my grandkids Xavier and Axel would be there, along with daughter Deb, but had no clue that our little family hike would include Deanna and Steven. Deanna’s husband Keith remained home to do some home time chores in Richland as they are waiting for delivery of a new semi to replace the one they currently own.  Deanna has some fairly horrendous stories about California emission laws for truckers, but I won’t go into that right now except to say that it has cost my trucker kids more than 100K in after market fixes and down time.

Mt Scott family hike (33 of 91) The fires in the west this year have been terrible, and the skies have been smoky for several weeks now.  On the morning of our hike, we still were under smoke from the 790 fire just 9 miles northwest of Rocky Point, and much more smoke from the huge Happy Camp fire just across the border in California.  I had so hoped for clear skies for our hike, but decided that we wouldn’t let the smoke get in the way of our family celebration.

Mt Scott family hike (41 of 91)If you look closely, you can see the trailhead parking area below

The weather was actually perfect, with cool morning air warmed up by the midday sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, and even with the smoky skies in the distance, once we were above 7,000 feet or so at Crater Lake, the air was clear.  Our hike wasn’t so much about the fabulous views of Crater Lake as much as a place to be together as a family and enjoy the outdoors doing something a little bit different.

Mt Scott family hike (52 of 91)

Mt Scott is the highest point in Crater Lake National Park, and the trail to the lookout at the peak is 2.5 miles each way, with a 1,200 foot elevation rise to the summit at 8900 feet.  Unlike some peak trails, however, this one is well graded without a lot of boulder hopping steps.  Perfect for all levels of hiking skill.  I loved it.  Just enough to get a good workout, but not enough to burn anyone out.

Mt Scott family hike (63 of 91)-SMILE (1)

Steven put photoshop on my computer so I could get everyone into one frame, but I haven’t tried it yet!Mt Scott family hike (67 of 91)After our hike, we continued around the Rim Road that encircles Crater Lake, stopping a few times to enjoy the views.  Probably due to the smoke, the park wasn’t especially crowded, but the lake blues were a bit subdued.  Even so, as I looked at the lake, I wondered out loud to Mo, “We live here, why don’t we visit this park more often!?”  I promised myself more Crater Lake hikes in the future.

Mt Scott family hike (85 of 91) With a two hour trip home after the hike, we were all starving, and I was happy that I had slow cooked the ribs all night in the oven.  All they needed was a quick glaze on the BBQ.  They turned out to be the best ribs I ever cooked.  That little trick in George’s recipe for the WeberQ, using sauerkraut between the ribs, makes for fall off the bone tender tasty meat.

Deb and Melody had to go home and back to work, but Deanna and Steven stayed for another two nights, spending a great day talking and sharing stories.  Steven was a computer security hacker for the Army, and had some great tricks and ideas for our computers that were really helpful.  He also had some rather interesting stories.  Whew!  The world can be a scary place. Mt Scott family hike (89 of 91)

Deanna took Mo and me (I sounds better, but nope…Deanna took me is the rule, right Sherry?) and Steven to a great birthday dinner at Lake of the Woods Resort, just 15 minutes up the highway, with a beautiful view of the lake from our table. Speaking of the highway, we at last have a name for our pass.  I often talk about going over “the unnamed pass” on Highway 140 to Medford.  I now have a name.  The highway department dubbed our pass “High Lakes Pass” and we now even have a sign at the summit!  Good name.  The Sky Lakes Wilderness is on the west and the Mountain Lakes Wilderness is on the east side of the road so High Lakes is a great name.

Birthday dinner (15 of 15)Birthday dinner (4 of 15)The final celebration for the week culminated in a trip over the mountain to enjoy a play at the Shakespearean Festival in Ashland.  What a treat it was to sit in the gorgeous Allen Elizabethan Theater for a magnificent production of “Into the Woods”.  The Festival is world class, and people come from all over the world to see the plays.  Mo and I have been to a couple of the plays in two of the other theaters in the past, but seeing a play on this famous stage was first for both of us.

osfNo photography allowed inside the theater, so I took this from the web

Best part of the story, however, was the seat choice.  The theater is an open air venue, with rain a rarity in Ashland this time of year.  I ordered tickets months ago, and even then the “best” (more expensive) seats were sold out, so we had to settle for row M, toward the back.  Lo and behold, it rained!  And those “best” ticket holders got all wet while we were completely protected by the balcony above us!  Amazing!  Even more amazing was the professional way that the cast continued the dancing and singing in those fabulous costumes with barely any acknowledgement that they were getting soaked as well.  Pretty incredible!

It would have been a great way to end the month, but instead we are going to end it with an even better plan.  We are off to Seattle and the San Juan Islands.  Just a short jaunt, because we know that the San Juan's deserve much more time, but this will be an exploratory trip with a longer visit to come in the future. 

As much as I struggled with writing this blog, I knew I had better get it done before we get on the road and I have photos to process and stories to write about another new destination for us!  Onward.


Friday, September 12, 2014


August 1996 to September 12 2014

Not much into talking right now, but wanted to mark the day.036-P1010016

Jeremy at five Jeremy catching afternoon sunlight 105-Jeremy 06 031-2005_03 Easter in Klamath  1-1-2018  053-0009

Medicine Lake Day 1-42

Medicine Lake Day 2-64